Friday, 30 October 2009

A Tale for Hallowe'en

THE lost traveller said: ‘I must say, it’s very good of you to take me in, a complete stranger.’

His host smiled at him over the candles that stood sentry on the long dining table.

‘It is nothing, I assure you,’ he said. ‘I am grateful that I can be of service. May I press you to some more stilton?’

‘Thank you,’ the other replied, ‘you certainly may. Despite your marvellous supper I am still hungry. The fright I suppose.’

‘It is indeed highly alarming to be lost on the moors, at night and in such weather. Worse on this particular night I imagine.’

He chuckled at his guest’s nonplussed expression.

‘All Hallow’s Eve,’ he explained.

The traveller laughed.

‘I had forgotten the date,’ he confessed, ‘especially after your fine meal. Though I must confess that even in this constantly changing century I have never before dined without a scrap of meat. Vegetables only. I would not have believed it possible, yet it was one of the finest meals I have eaten in many a day.’

‘You flatter me. Doubtless your ordeal has sharpened your hunger. We do not often eat meat here. We cannot often get it you see. I think that this is perhaps right. Meat should be rare. Some more of this rather disappointing port? Or would you prefer brandy perhaps. I do not drink wine, for the gout you know.’

‘Thank you, but your port is excellent. I must say again how grateful I am that you took me in. After all I just turn up on your doorstep with some story about being thrown from my horse while taking a short-cut and this place so isolated. I expected to have the dogs set on me.’

‘That would have been a waste.’

This last was spoken in an unheard murmur. The host smiled again at his guest.

‘Again you flatter me. The pleasure is entirely mine. Here we are starved…’ he poured some brandy into his balloon glass not having tasted a drop of the port, ‘…of pleasant conversation.’

The guest took a deep draught from his glass and then felt suddenly drowsy, more drowsy than he had ever felt before. He could not speak and the remains of his port wine splashed to the floor. He could not lift his head, nor could he respond as his host, now testing the edge of the cheese knife against his thumb said pleasantly:

‘No, as I said, the pleasure is entirely mine.’

He stood and it seemed to the traveller that he loomed in darkness. As unconsciousness overcame him he just heard and just comprehended his host’s final words:

‘The thing is, I always like to have a guest for breakfast.’

With apologies to the late great Vivian Stanshall.

And then there’s what I suppose is the shortest ghost story ever. I first heard it as a young teenager. It went something like this:

THE last surviving human sat alone in the room. There was a knock at the door.

Finally have a listen and, as it is said, be careful for there may be some walking this night that should not:

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